'Walking together' with those fleeing violence and persecution

10 June 2021

Residents and visitors to Chester can play a unique role this month in supporting the resettlement of refugees to our borough.

The Council and Chester City of Sanctuary are inviting people to take part in a series of special events which will be held in the city during Refugee Week, 14-20 June.

Our borough has become home in recent years to refugee families who were moved here by the Government as part of the national resettlement programme, after fleeing war torn areas of the world.

Among them is Fedaa Dakak, a Syrian Refugee who arrived in 2019 with his family and has been supported by forfutures, the Council's contracted support provider.

After a year attending ESOL classes to learn English, he passed a barbering course at Cheshire College, despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic.

Fedaa said: "Me and my family in-law lived together in Syria and then we fled to Lebanon. We were suffering and lived in hardship. One day we were chosen for resettlement in the UK. In the beginning, we were scared because of not knowing what awaits us in that country.

"The people around us were friendly and kind which made us more comfortable. We wanted to learn English because we realised that language will be the key to integrate and be part of society.

"Our English is improving slowly. Our children got used to their new life and are very happy in school. Me and my brother-in-law have achieved our barbering qualification and are hoping to have our barber shop to make sure all the lads in Cheshire are looking their best."

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: "We are helping refugee families like Fedaa's to integrate into our society. This is ongoing work and we are creating a culture of welcome and hospitality for all people seeking sanctuary in Cheshire West and Chester.

"Cheshire West and Chester aspires to join the City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network and ultimately to become an accredited 'Borough of Sanctuary.'

"We are providing a sanctuary, alongside our partners across the borough, by providing joined-up services to help refugees settle and contribute to our communities.

"As families become more used to living here, we are ensuring they are provided with the right information at the right time and in the right place when they need it most, so that they are able to settle easier."

The theme of this year's Refugee Week 2021 is 'We cannot walk alone.' The Council and our partners at Chester City of Sanctuary are encouraging residents to take part in a unique public art installation, entitled 'Walking Together,' in Chester Cathedral gardens.

It is hoped that more than 1,000 people will visit the gardens between 12-5pm from 17-20 June and symbolically 'walk together' with those seeking sanctuary by planting one of the free flags provided. As each flag is planted, a 'Welcome to Chester' pathway will grow, showing support for those who flee violence and persecution.

Storyhouse will be showing the film Midnight Traveller on 20 June at 1.15pm, introduced by a member of City of Sanctuary. On the same day, Chester Cathedral holds a special 10am service to mark Refugee Week. The guest speaker will be Inderjit Bhogal, co-founder of City of Sanctuary.

The Chester City of Sanctuary Group is a volunteer group committed to creating a culture of welcome for refugees and asylum seekers. A list of local events can be found on the Chester City of Sanctuary website here: https://chester.cityofsanctuary.org/events/refugee-week-2

The City of Sanctuary is a global movement to raise awareness and create a culture of welcome and hospitality for all people seeking sanctuary and safety. The City of Sanctuary in the UK is a registered charity that supports places, local communities and organisations to build a culture in which refugees feel safe, are treated fairly with dignity and respect.

Refugee Week, 14 to 20 June 2021, is a global event raising awareness and celebrating the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees to the local communities they live in around the world.

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